Dark Magic and the $97 Book

images-2First, a disclaimer: if you’re the author of a $97 book, the title of this post is not meant to imply that you practice voodoo or are the next incarnation of Voldemort. No, not at all. It’s merely a catchy phrase to illustrate that when an archetype is active in our lives, we meet up with both its gifts and its challenges.

Plus, the $97 book is instantly recognizable to many in the blogosphere. And okay, I admit it, I do think it’s funny. In fact, my husband and I have a running joke around here about the avalanche of $97 books.

It’s amusing because, well, because books simply don’t cost that much. And you probably already know that.

You might drop $10, $20, even $30 on a book. But unless it’s particularly rare or precious or beautiful (or a text book), it’s highly unlikely you’ll open your wallet to the tune of $97. Unless, of course, you have no choice, like George in “The Bookstore” episode of Seinfeld. In it he surreptitiously carted a gorgeous art book into the bathroom at Brentano’s, got caught, and was forced to pay for it. $100, I think. Sort of like, you break it, you buy it.

Anyway, we all know what books cost, right? Which makes the phenomenon of the $97 book even more curious, because clearly people are selling and people are buying. Makes you wonder what’s going on, right?

Well, I think it’s the flip side of the magician archetype I wrote about on Monday. You may recall the magician, at its brightest, is about transformation, healing, and the power of naming. On the shady side, however, it’s about manipulation, guruism, and misnaming to make people feel inferior.

But as far as shady magicians go, $97 books are fairly small potatoes. It gets a little scarier, though, when it shows up in the form of a cult leader, or someone who uses power to harm others, like Bernard Madoff. However, as devastating as that was for Madoff’s victims, it’s likely at some level they unconsciously participated in his dark magic. Indeed, a few have admitted they looked the other way; they wanted to believe in the magic of easy money.

Which reminds me of the anguished words of Blanche DuBois:

I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.

Not unlike Blanche, we can get derailed by what we believe ought to be truth about life: that it’s easy and effortless, and gratification is immediate. In fact, those of us who align with the bright qualities of the magician archetype may be particularly susceptible to shady magicians who promise the quick fix, the bewitching panacea for unending joy and riches. Just last week Tess over at The Bold Life wrote a splendid post about this topic: “The In Crowd vs The Within Crowd.”

I myself have certainly not been immune. I’ve been caught in the woo, my eyes have gone trance-like over some new thing, I’ve danced toward the edge of the cliff.

But I haven’t yet been pushed over.

Most recently I actually asked a $97 book purveyor if I could just buy the book, sans all the EXTRAS that were promised with it (because they seemed pretty puny to me and not particularly valuable). The response: NO. The implication: If you can’t understand the value of this, then there must be something wrong with you.

Now that’s classic dark magician archetype at work. Here are some other ways it shows up:

  • The magician professes to have wisdom, knowledge, or information that no one else knows or has (and often fails to credit original sources).
  • There’s an underlying message that you are not enough, and will not be so until you have what the magician is offering.
  • There’s a big discrepancy between the magician’s experience/credentials and the amount of money they charge.
  • If you question the value of the offering or the tactics used to promote it, the magician’s response will often be disproportionately swift, defensive, and angry.
  • The magician will likely misname those who question or don’t believe in their woo woo. I’ve observed that this can be quite ugly and personal, as in, “If you don’t get me, then you must have a really crappy life.”
  • Your intuition will set off alarms and red flags that scream: DON’T.
  • It will sound too good to be true.

For the most part, I practice empathy for the shady side of the magician archetype (Madoff notwithstanding). I also work at not getting sucked in. Because every archetype is a palette of light, dark, and shades of gray. And on the face of it, that’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is. But the danger arises when we go unconscious about it.

Personally, I know what it’s like to be in an archetypal trance, to feel possessed by the shady side of an archetype (that happens with my creator and jester archetypes).

Thus I’m willing to believe that many shady magicians don’t deliberately set out to manipulate, but rather are caught in the grips of an archetypal story that’s bigger than they are.

So what do you think? I’d love to hear your take on this. Or your personal experience. Any thoughts you’d like to share are much appreciated!



15 thoughts on “Dark Magic and the $97 Book

  1. “On the shady side, however, it’s about manipulation, guruism, and misnaming to make people feel inferior.”

    You said it all! This is very interesting and is very insightful. Thanks for the mention:)

  2. It all depends upon the quality of knowledge you have to offer and the skillset the customer has to put into practice your ideas.

    For example, I broke the Google code years ago…and after awhile, wrote a book on how to do create thriving networks of inter-connected sites (ie, portal/list building). The techniques I shared literally made me 5 figures a month. You tell me if $97 wouldn’t be a fair price for that.

    Recently I released a book on how to become an authority figure in any industry (Income Fitness). That sells for $37. The process is incredibly easy to do but takes time (obviously). For those people who follow the techniques, methinks it will deliver far more than the initial price point.

    That being said, I do agree with the fact lots of so-called gurus will simply throw together stuff and charge 5 times what it’s worth. They can get away with that because of their audience/affiliates. I much prefer to sleep well at night, so I try to shy away from such hype.

    Data points, Barbara

  3. Hi Patty!
    What a fascinating post!!! I obviously need to read some of your previous ones. I’m not aware of the $97 book joke in the blogsphere – I know, I am a “rookie” haha ! But I have seen and get emails from the Daily Health newsletter which advertises books that of course, cure everything and it’s a “secret” and yadayada. Those, too, are frightfully costly BUT you get free pamphlets (they call them books) FREE when you purchase their biggie. Frankly, you can find ANY secret on the web if you look hard enough!

    Where’s your feedblitz or follower thingy?

  4. Patty, thanks for another great post! I’m fascinated by the creativity and mystique that goes along with the $97-book phenomenon (or even ponzi schemers like Madoff). Its promise is alluring and it makes you start thinking of grander possibilities you might be missing out on.

    But beyond that fascination, when I check in with reality, I have to wonder how a $97 book can possibly deliver on the promise to be everything I’m seeking and more.

    I’m fortunate to have a pretty good network of trusted people I can go to for free advice, so I have yet to succumb. Also, I happen to have a great used bookstore down the street from my house and been able to glean valuable wisdom without blowing my book budget, so for me, a $97 book is a tough sell.

  5. Hi Tess – Thanks for joining in the conversation. I hope people click over to your post too!

    Hi Barbara – Great to have you visiting and hear your comments. Personally, I wouldn’t attach $97 worth of value to a book promising I could reach five figures a month. Because, as wonderful as it is that it worked for you, you’re you, you’re unique, but you’re not me. And I have to do things that have meaning for me, not create my meaning through the lens of other people’s experiences. Actually, I don’t even believe that works for most people. But I certainly appreciate your insights. Thanks.

    Hi Suzen – Thanks for pointing out the “joke” comment. That was a bit misleading. What I meant was it’s a joke in my house, my husband and I are routinely amused by it (he has studied archetypes too). So I went back and edited the post. And I absolutely agree with you – you can find anything if you look hard enough. And I would add, you can often find original sources that give more insight and illumination on concepts. Oh, and RSS thing – still working on it!

    HI Minimalist – Welcome to the conversation. Absolutely, a fab recipe for chicken soup is worth its weight in gold! The other stuff, not so much. Thanks.

    Hi Belinda – I’m so glad you mentioned used book stores. And I forgot to add libraries too. Excellent sources for cheap and free info. Plus, the trusted network you talk about is so important. Being comfortable asking for help, trusting those in your network – I actually think those are some of the best defenses against the shady side of the magician archetype. Thank you for more great insights!

    • Hi there,

      “Personally, I wouldn’t attach $97 worth of value to a book promising I could reach five figures a month.”

      Nobody should purchase ANYTHING that has such a promise! Smart marketers should never PROMISE anything monetary-wise, because of those facts you just mentioned.

      Potential, yes. Promise? Run far far far FAR away.

  6. People who sell dishonestly are preying on our dishonesty, are they not?
    Dishonesty about what it really takes to get what they promise.
    We all must know that things take time and effort and if we want to be deluded than we are as much out of integrity as the seller.
    They prey on our weakness, but lots of things are; insurances, education, bullies.
    This is just one more encouragement to get myself strong and honest.

  7. Hi Wilma – Thanks for reminding us that this is indeed about us, not just about the other person. Because we do all have the potential to be dishonest within us, and when we delude ourselves, as you say, we are projecting that onto the other. Great point!

  8. Thanks for this — I particularly liked how the post recognizes that it takes two to tango in any “toxic relationship,” commercial or otherwise — that we have to buy into the desire to fill some perceived hole in ourselves before we can be “manipulated” by someone else into purchasing their $97 way of filling it. 🙂

    • Hey Chris – Welcome, glad you stopped by. Love the way you frame it, a “toxic relationship.” And what’s so interesting to me is that this relationship usually plays out at such a deep, unconscious level that we are not even aware of. Thanks!

  9. This is a GREAT post… and Chris is spot on with the “toxic relationship” analogy. They sell lies, and we happen to be in the market for precisely that!

    As you said, “it’s likely at some level they unconsciously participated in his dark magic. Indeed, a few have admitted they looked the other way; they wanted to believe in the magic of easy money.”

    I know I did. I really, really, really wanted it to be true that I could stay home with my son, write a few blog posts each week, and watch the money roll in. I desperately, and against my better judgment, wanted that fantasy to be true. But wanting doesn’t make it so, does it?

    This is a beautifully crafted post, and you are absolutely right. I especially like your section on other ways it shows up. I love how when we are not buying the BS, there must be something wrong with US! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Lisis. It’s great to have you pay a visit over here. And I got to discover your site!

  10. Pingback: Net Worth vs Self Worth: The Passion Paradox | Quest for Balance

  11. Pingback: Why Self-Help Bores Me « Why Not Start Now?

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